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April 18, 2014

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Prep basketball:

Findlay flies away in 137-95 season-opening victory

Ace guard Cory Joseph paces Pilots with 28 points in romp of National College Prep

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Rob Miech

Findlay College Prep newcomers Nick Johnson (left) and Jabari Brown chipped in with 21 and 26 points, respectively, Friday night in the Pilots’ 137-95 smashing of National College Prep.

It’s a new Findlay College Prep basketball team, which made coach Mike Peck a little nervous Friday night.

The results, however, were more of the same as the ESPN defending national-champion Pilots blasted National College Prep, 137-95, in their season opener at the Henderson International School.

Cory Joseph, the nation’s best prep point guard, led Findlay with 28 points, and Jabari Brown (26 points) and Nick Johnson (21) made impacts in their debuts as Pilots.

“We wanted to come out strong and show all the hard work we’ve been putting in,” said Brown, a 6-foot-3 junior from Oakland, Calif.

Johnson, a 6-3 junior from Gilbert, Ariz., finished the game in Globetrotter fashion.

He had a break-away 360-degree dunk, a tip jam from the right side on Brown’s missed jumper and then a resounding reverse cram off Nigel William-Goss’s back pass between his legs.

“A little something for the crowd,” said Johnson.

Peck is 66-1 in three seasons running the Pilots.

“If it’s going to go like this, I’ll be exhausted by Christmas,” he said with a slight smile. “There was just a lot of anticipation for the first one.”

UNLV players and Findlay graduates Brice Massamba and Carlos Lopez attended the game and howled when Godwin Okonji, a three-year Pilot, made it 98-68 with a powerful dunk in transition.

National coach Bill Hankins left the Henderson International gym with wide eyes and shaking his head.

“Never in a million years did I think we’d get blown out like this,” he said. “We had a good preseason, against junior colleges, but these guys got to see what elite basketball is all about.

“I’m shocked. I wanted to play well. I thought we would. I thought we had a chance to win. I was wrong, very wrong. I’m in disbelief.”

The Toreadors were led by Willie Hankins, the coach’s son who started at Findlay last season but left by the time the Pilots went to Maryland to cap their third season with a national crown.

Findlay led from start to finish, and it pulled away with 11 consecutive points, started and finished by Joseph 3-point shots, in the first half for a 23-10 advantage.

Another Joseph 3-pointer at the end of the first half pumped Findlay’s edge to 66-48.

The Pilots came out of their locker room racing, and in the first six minutes of the second half they pelted National with a devastating run.

Senior power forwards Tristan Thompson and Okonji ran the court well and finished, and got to the line, and Brown’s dunk and easy inside basket made it 88-54.

“Each of our games is going to be like a national championship game,” said Thompson, who had 22 points. “And for our opponents, this is like their Super Bowl … their World Series. A thousand kids want to play us.”

Only a chosen few get to play for Peck, though, and he made an addition to his roster Friday when Henry Uwadiae landed in Las Vegas in the middle of the afternoon.

With the proper visas and other paperwork completed, the 6-10, 200-pound sophomore left Benin City, Nigeria, for Atlanta, then caught a plane to Las Vegas.

With Aussie center Dekeeba Battee-Aston, a sophomore, Peck has his low-post game of the future on deck and an invaluable 10th player for practice.

For the first time in two seasons, the Pilots will be able to run five-on-five scrimmage sessions.

“We had a good day,” Joseph said of his team’s 137 points. “People were hittin’ shots and feelin’ good. We can improve on our defense, but for our first game everyone played hard and well.”

Findlay plays Impact Academy on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Henderson International.

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